Rozner: Return or not, Sharp big part of Blackhawks, magic history

  • Patrick Sharp celebrated the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship Monday at the United Center. "It's been a tough year. It's been a long year," he said, while holding daughter Madelyn.

      Patrick Sharp celebrated the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup championship Monday at the United Center. "It's been a tough year. It's been a long year," he said, while holding daughter Madelyn. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/17/2015 12:44 PM

As hockey seasons go, they don't come much tougher than the one Patrick Sharp just survived.

The 33-year-old Sharp came off a 2013-14 season in which he led the Blackhawks in goals (34) and points (78). A consistent 30-goal scorer, who has topped the Hawks in goals four of the previous seven years, Sharp suffered an early-season injury that limited him to just 68 games and 16 goals this year.

 

During the season, he was hounded by malicious off-ice gossip that had to affect his play.

A top-six forward, Sharp was frequently buried in the postseason on the third line, nearly discarded and certainly underused.

But Sharp stayed quiet and said the right things, playing whatever role he was asked to play, a professional from start to finish.

Finally, in the last round Sharp got the chance to play with elite NHL players and played again like an elite NHL player, dangerous around the net and responsible in his own end.

And Sharp did more than survive. He still managed 15 points in 23 games, good for fifth on the Stanley Cup champs behind Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa.

When it was all over, the Hawks' alternate captain lifted the Stanley Cup for the third, this time at home, and the relief was surpassed only slightly by the joy.

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"It's been a tough year. It's been a long year," Sharp said, while holding daughter Madelyn in one arm while he celebrated at the UC. "To be on the ice with my two girls, to see all the family and friends and to win it on home ice, it's a pretty special ending."

Of the three Cups, this was undoubtedly the toughest, the Hawks challenged all season and throughout the playoffs, pressed to the limit by teams with deeper rosters, heavier lineups and faster players.

"I guess you could say this was the hardest one, that it wasn't the prettiest," Sharp said. "It was a tough regular season. Teams are coming at us hard every night and we hung in there and got it done."

Now, you wonder if Sharp is done here in Chicago.

The Hawks are essentially at the cap for next season, and that doesn't include unrestricted free agents Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette, Michal Rozsival, Kyle Cumiskey, Dan Carcillo, Kimmo Timonen and Andrew Desjardins, nor does it include restricted free agents Marcus Kruger, Joakim Nordstrom or David Rundblad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

With a cap hit of $5.9 million, Sharp will be a trade candidate because the Hawks need salary space and must get younger. Like Bryan Bickell ($4 million), Sharp can be traded to 10 teams, but there's no guarantee either will be dealt.

Like it or not, GM Stan Bowman has some tough decisions to make and, one way or another. some popular players will be gone.

"Not gonna worry about it now," Sharp said with a smile. "I'm just gonna enjoy the next couple days and weeks.

"We'll take each step as it comes. Honestly, I don't know what's gonna happen, either."

The only thing the players know for certain is the group will look very different in the fall, which is one of the reasons they were so dedicated to making certain this chance didn't get away from them.

"The first one, when we won in Philly (in 2010), we knew some guys were gonna be gone. We knew there would be changes," Sharp said. "There's always changes. That played a role in our thinking."

Sharp surveyed the crowd at the UC and said: "This is a great city, a great organization and a special place. We pulled together at the right time. This is very special. This group of guys is special."

Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the longest tenured Hawks at a decade, and you see it in Sharp's eyes when he talks about his fellow veterans.

"Those two guys are my brothers, my best friends," Sharp said. "We've been together for 10 years. We've won three championships together. We've won gold medals together. To do it with your friends, we're lucky to be a part of this.

"The seven of us who have been here for all three Cups, we're like family. We care about each other. We love each other. Our families are very close. To be able to say we've done it three times, we're extremely proud of that."

With so many little ones sliding around the ice Monday night, Sharp could not help but reflect.

"The first time we did it, it was just us," Sharp laughed. "Now, there's all these kids out here. It's amazing."

It has been an amazing run. Whether Sharp remains part of it is out of his hands, but what is not in dispute is his tremendous record in Chicago and his place in the city's history.

No salary cap will ever change that.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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